Nov 2, 2013

"Say it with a Song" and "DO You Hear the People Sing?"-- October Reading, 2013

From, Page 20-21.

Say It with a Song
A different way to grab your audience’s attention.

As Toastmasters, we a constantly on the lookout for new speech ideas. Songs can be an excellent source of material for speeches because of their storytelling nature, short duration and infectious melodies. Because of these properties, almost any song can be used to create or enhance a speech in interesting ways.

The short duration of a song cries out for a speech to convey the details of the song’s story. I once wrote a speech based on the song “Saint John” by Cold War Kids. The song tells the story of a man on death row hoping for a pardon from the governor. He ended up on death row after throwing a brick at a drunk college kid who was part of a group that was harassing his sister. The framework for a speech was already in place in the song.

The song has a tragic element to it, which is amplified by its mournful chorus. I only needed to add some additional details to the story to transform the song into a speech. I also took the opportunity to try and emulate the singer who sang with a drawl, which added to the entertainment value of the speech. But, perhaps the most powerful aspect of the speech was the chorus line I sang to my audience as a break between the different parts of the story.

A Chorus Line
Choruses are meant to be catchy, with interesting rhythms and melodies. In fact, when most people think of a song, it’s typically a chorus line that first comes to mind. For good or bad, depending on your taste and the length of time you are forced to listen to it, the chorus line may be the only part of the song you actually remember.

Try using a chorus line to your advantage by singing it as part of your speech. In addition to the rhythm and melody, just the fact that you’re singing it will grab your audience’s attention. By doing so, you will also inject into the speech whatever emotional tone or attitude the chorus projects. In my speech, a chorus line provided smooth transitions between each part of the story. Singing adds emotional impact in a way that simply telling a story cannot do.

Imagine a humorous speech in which the speaker describes a situation that made him want to appear to be cool, but things didn’t work out as intended. Now imagine the speaker singing a chorus line from the song “Bad to the Bone” by George Thorogood and the Destroyers during certain parts of his or her speech. The singing catches the audience’s attention and also injects some humor into the speech.

Using Soundtracks
Soundtracks are another source for speech ideas. [A soundtrack can be recorded music synchronized to the images of a motion picture, book, television program or video game. Soundtracks are sometimes released commercially as soundtrack albums.] Soundtrack speeches use songs that remind the speaker of a specific time in his life. Typically these memories focus on childhood, a particular person or a romantic relationship. Soundtracks may be the most common types of songs that speakers incorporate into speeches.

If you have been a Toastmaster for a long time, you have probably heard someone give a soundtrack speech, or you may have given one yourself. This type of speech can work to your advantage because it will hold your audience’s attention. Additionally, hearing a song’s chorus may trigger feelings of nostalgia in audience members who recognize them.

Creative Use of Song Titles
Those looking for a challenge might consider a list of song titles by their favorite artist and write a speech that incorporates those titles directly into the speech narrative. In these cases the speaker doesn’t sing. The titles are simply used as phrases in the sentences of the speech. For example, a speech about an old car might incorporate titles of some Beatles songs:

My wife keeps threatening to have my ’67 Camaro towed out to the junkyard because she is tired of it taking up space in the garage. She affectionately refers to it as the “yellow submarine” because she feels in her words that “it should be rusting on the bottom of the ocean.” I told her I wasn’t getting rid of it because I know that “with a little help from my friends” I will get that car up and running as good as new.

Once the audience picks up on what the speaker is doing, they will appreciate the difficulty of the speaker’s challenge.

Tunes for Table Topics
Another use for a song is creating Table Topics questions. This is especially useful when you learn just before a meeting that the scheduled Table Topicsmaster can’t make the meeting and someone else needs to fill that role. People have songs they enjoy listening to, so it’s easy to recall a favorite. Try using it to craft part of a spur-of- the moment question. Here are some examples:

• Huey Lewis and the News sang about the heart of rock ‘n’ roll. What is the heart of rock ‘n’ roll, and is it still beating?
• Ozzy Osbourne went off the rails on a crazy train. When do you board your crazy train, and what makes it go off the rails?
• Steppen-wolf was born to be wild. What were you born to be?

These examples don’t require the responder to actually know the song, and you can use them to spur ideas for a vast amount of topics in a short time.

The next time you’re seeking inspiration for a speech topic, think about some of your favorite songs. It’s likely that you can transform one of them into an entertaining speech, or use a chorus to spice up a speech you’re working on.

The Song-Title Technique

To inject humor into a speech— especially one about a dry topic— I sometimes use a technique that involves grouping song titles into themes. It can work with any well-known musician or group that has recorded a large number of songs.

Let’s say you’re going to make a training presentation. You have to teach a group of people something really complicated—a computer program, details of complex new legislation, medical procedures, whatever. You might begin by saying:

It may sound strange, but I feel the Beatles are here with us today— because they recorded some songs on how you may feel about learning [the topic of your talk]. The top three titles are:

• "The Long And Winding Road"
• "It's All Too Much"
• "Help!

Fortunately, they also recorded some songs about how I feel. The top three are:

• "I Want To Hold Your Hand"
• "Ask Me Why"
• "We Can Work It Out"

This is a condensed version of Malcolm Kushner’s article “Want To Be Funny? You Can’t Go Wrong If You Name That Song,” which was published in the March 2007 Toastmaster magazine.


Do You Hear the People Sing

Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?

Then join in the fight
That will give you the right to be free!

Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!

Will you give all you can give
So that our banner may advance
Some will fall and some will live
Will you stand up and take your
The blood of the martyrs
Will water the meadows of France!

Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!

Translation Comparison

Mandarin Version

Taiwanese Version


• infectious / ɪnˈfekʃəs; ɪnˋfɛkʃəs/ adj
quickly influencing others; likely to spread to others
• harass / ˈhrəs; US həˈras; həˋras/ v
trouble and annoy (sb) continually
• mournful /ˈmɔːnfəl US ˈmɔːrn-/ adj
very sad
• emulate / ˈemjuleɪt; ˋɛmjəˏlet/ v ~ sb (at sth)
try to do as well as or better than sb
• drawl [drɔːl] n.
a slow speech pattern with prolonged vowels
• synchronize / ˈsɪŋkrənaɪz; ˋsɪŋkrəˏnaɪz/ v ~ (sth) (with sth)
(cause sth to) operate, move, turn, etc at the same time, speed, etc
• incorporate / ɪnˈkɔːpəreɪt; ɪnˋkɔrpəret/ v ~ sth (in/into sth)
make sth part of a whole; include
• nostalgia / nɔˈstaldʒə; nɑˋstaldʒə/ n
a feeling that a time in the past was good
• tow / təu; to/ v
pull (sth) along with a rope, chain, etc
• rust v /rʌst/
to become covered with reddish-brown substance that forms on iron or steel when it gets wet
• get rid of
remove, extinguish, eliminate
• spur-of-the-moment adj. spur / spɜː(r); spə/ n
on a sudden impulse, without previous planning
• legislation /ˌledʒɪˈsleɪʃən/ n
a law or set of laws
• crusade / kruːˈseɪd; kruˋsed/ n
any struggle or campaign for sth believed to be good, or against sth believed to be bad
• barricade /ˈbærɪkeɪd, ˌbærɪˈkeɪd/ n
a temporary wall or fence across a road, door etc that prevents people from going through
• martyr /ˈmɑːtə US ˈmɑːrtər/ n
someone who dies for their religious or political beliefs and is admired by people for this

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